The Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday asked the Republican megadonor who has come under scrutiny for providing lavish trips and gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to identify the full extent of what he has given to him and any other justices — a move that comes as Democrats escalate their calls for ethics reforms at the court.
Justiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and the other Democrats on the committee issued the letter to Harlan Crow requesting that he provide an itemized list of gifts worth more than $415 that he gave to Thomas or any other justices or their family members. They also asked Crow to provide a full list of real estate transactions, transportation, lodging and admission to private clubs he might have provided.
“As part of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s ongoing efforts to craft legislation strengthening the ethical rules and standards that apply to the Justices of the Supreme Court, we request that you provide the Committee with certain information by May 22, 2023,” they wrote. “This information will help identify specific shortcomings in the ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices,’ as well as current law, that legislation needs to address.”
The letter was signed by all 11 Democrats including Sen. Feinstein.
It’s still unclear what Democrats’ next steps are in their investigation into Crow or what they’ll do if he doesn’t respond to their request voluntarily. Committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wouldn’t rule out the possibility Democrats could subpoena Crow in a CNN interviewSunday, saying that “everything is on the table” when it comes to the committee’s next steps. The committee would not be able to issue that subpoena until Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who’s been out of the Senate while recovering from shingles, returns, however. The committee is right now evenly split between Democrats and Republicans in her absence, which means there wouldn’t be a majority to approve the subpoena, Durbin acknowledged Sunday. (Feinstein did sign the letter to Crow.) While Democrats said in their letter to Crow that their inquiry was part of an effort to pass legislation that would impose a code of ethics on Supreme Court justices—who right now don’t have to follow a binding code like lower federal judges do—such legislation is highly unlikely to actually pass. Senate Republicans on the committee strongly opposed any Democratic efforts to force such a code on the court during a hearing last week, painting Democrats’ criticism of Thomas as a partisan left-wing campaign against the conservative-leaning court. – Forbes